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Manawatū Summer Shakespeare launches first-ever Givealittle Campaign

Following a shock loss in funding from Massey University last year, over 80 members of the Manawatū community gathered to insist that Manawatū Summer Shakespeare (MSS) is an essential feature on the Palmerston North summer arts event calendar, and demand it be saved. With a packed room and hundreds more offering online support, a huge mandate supported the creative leads to continue the project with council backing. Award winning and critically acclaimed theatre-makers, Rhian Firmin (Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) and Rachel Lenart, joined forces once more, this time as Co-Artistic Directors for 2024, to wild applause and relief from the community. They are the core creative team behind 2023’s Romeo and Juliet, the Covid-cancelled 2022 season of the same, 2021’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and 2020’s Twelfth Night. Lenart has held the position of Creative Producer for Manawatū Summer Shakespeare since 2019, with Firmin in a variety of key roles including the Director of the record-breaking season of Romeo and Juliet.

After a mammoth fundraising effort, with major backing from Palmerston North City Council, and significant support from Creative Communities Palmerston North, Central Energy Trust, FOPS Performing Arts, and Arts Heart Educational Development Project Scheme, the team have covered a significant amount of the substantial costs. However, with fierce competition for community grants, and changes to funding structures, some usually reliable funding grants were unsuccessful. MSS find themselves on the edge of viability and a final push of fundraising is needed to ensure the show will go on and the production team can deliver the show the community deserves. Manawatū Summer Shakespeare has launched a Givealittle campaign - please see here for details: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/susha

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Manawatū Summer Shakespeare launched in 2003, through the vision of Professor Angie Farrow (OMZM) with the backing of Massey University’s (then) School of English and Media Studies as a way of connecting the wider Manawatū community to the arts, demystifying Shakespeare, and to give back to the people of Palmerston North. The aim was to bring town and gown together for accessible, grassroots, community Shakespeare with professional leads. Central to this idea was that the show must be available to all and any to attend, with an ethos of pay what you can, if you can - koha entry. This is a kaupapa and legacy Lenart has been determined to honour, despite major funding challenges.

“We are the only Summer Shakespeare in Aotearoa to operate for koha entry, and our production values remain as high as any in the country. We’re producing world class interpretations on shoestring budgets with and for our community. The accessible entry is our point of difference and something I am deeply proud of and committed to upholding as long as I am leading the project.” - Creative Producer Rachel Lenart

The Artistic directors have chosen Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Rhian Firmin, to celebrate their 21st birthday. Lenart says this is a deliberate, playful choice,

“2023 saw Wellington Summer Shakespeare announce its disestablishment after 40 years, we thought we were next. We almost didn’t get a season this year, but with much ado, and much to do, we settled on a text that showcases the heart of what MSS is all about, joy, laughter, and pleasure. We hold Shakespeare lightly. Shakespeare is not a serious intellectual time, it's a ridiculous time! With some of the sharpest wit in the Shakespeare canon, and a killer lady lead, Much Ado felt like the right call for us. This is not a year for tragedy, it's a time to celebrate this amazing community and their faith in our team. Expect a colourful, wild, saucy, and absolutely bonkers time!”

More exciting Production details to come!

Please help us save Manawatū Summer Shakespeare by donating now! https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/susha

"At its core, Summer Shakespeare is an event that is filled with aroha, mana and connection. It's an event that truly brings people together. It fosters emerging artists and creates a space of knowledge sharing and collaboration, but it also creates a space for sustainable collaboration for mid-career and industry professional-level artists. It is, simply put, a space where magic happens.- Director Rhian Firmin

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